Maine lawmakers consider new protections for election workers, ballots, voting machines

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 5:41 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW) - Maine lawmakers are considering a new bill to protect the state’s election workers.

A public hearing was held Wednesday before the legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

The bill would make it a felony to threaten election officials and disrupt them from carrying out their duties. Anyone convicted could face up to five years in prison.

Supporters said the law would define threats as a crime against the election itself.

“These types of potentially volatile interactions do not happen often. Most of my voters are wonderful, civic-minded folk, but these incidents are happening with increased frequency,” Westbrook City Clerk Angela Holmes said.

The ACLU of Maine was skeptical.

“There is no evidence that making interference with elections a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, is more likely to deter people from making threats,” said Meagan Sway, of the ACLU of Maine.

Two municipal clerks in Maine reported receiving personal threats in the past year.

The committee also heard testimony on a bill that would prohibit out-of-state groups from taking possession of ballots to conduct post-election audits, which happened in Arizona after the 2020 presidential election.

Supporters said the law would prevent tampering and damage to state election assets.

“By clarifying and placing appropriate limits on possession and chain of custody for ballots, providing detail about where ballots need to be stored, and adds additional safeguards for inspections,” said Alysia Melnick, of the Center for Secure & Modern Elections.

“Municipal clerks who are new to administering elections may be unaware that these materials must be secured throughout the year and not just during an election season or cycle,” said Patti Dubois, of the Maine Town and City Clerks Association.

Only one person expressed opposition to the bill during the hearing.

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